LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A federal judge on Monday dismissed an antitrust lawsuit filed against NASCAR by a Kentucky track that was left off its premier racing circuit.
Kentucky Speedway alleged that NASCAR had conspired to leave the Sparta track and others out of the Sprint Cup — formerly known as the Nextel Cup — series despite their superior amenities.
Judge William O. Bertelsman threw out the speedway's suit against NASCAR and the International Speedway Corp. in a ruling from U.S. District Court at Covington in northern Kentucky.
NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said the ruling "puts an end to any question about which locations and dates NASCAR can operate its races. Like other sports such as the NFL, MLB and the NBA, NASCAR can host its events where it decides is best for the sport and its fans."
The speedway plans to appeal, its attorney said.
"We feel that there are serious issues of both law and fact that need to be heard by the appellate court," attorney Stan Chesley said by phone.
The speedway, located about halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati, has drawn huge crowds to some of its other races. The NASCAR Busch race, now called the NASCAR Nationwide series, last year drew more than 70,000 people to the 1.5-mile tri-oval in northern Kentucky.
The speedway had asked that ISC be ordered to sell some of the tracks it owns that host Sprint Cup races and that the speedway be awarded in excess of $200 million in damages.
"We are disappointed in the court's decision, both for ourselves, for the commonwealth of Kentucky and for all those fans who have been hurt by what we believe are NASCAR's and ISC's anticompetitive actions toward Kentucky Speedway," Chesley said.
Its events also include a Craftsman Truck Series race and an IndyCar Series event.
To improve traffic flow for the huge crowds, an interstate highway was widened near the track and a new exit was added. The track, with a capacity of just over 66,000, has said it's prepared to add 20,000 to 35,000 seats if it attracted a Sprint Cup race.
Attorneys for NASCAR and ISC asked Bertelsman for a summary judgment in November, arguing the speedway had insufficient evidence to prove NASCAR and ISC worked together with other tracks to keep the Kentucky track from obtaining a race in the Sprint Cup series.
A March 4 trial date was set in the case, but Bertelsman had urged attorneys for NASCAR, ISC and the speedway to return to the bargaining table. He said an expected monthlong trial, followed by years of appeals, could be avoided if the sides continued mediation.
Poston said Monday that race fans in Kentucky and the Cincinnati area have been "great supporters" of races at Kentucky Speedway but said there are factors of geography and a tight schedule for the 36-race Sprint Cup series, which runs from February to November.
"It's not simply possible to squeeze in too many more events onto our schedule," he said.
In the last decade, NASCAR's expansion has largely been outside the South, in places such as Indianapolis, Chicago and Michigan.